Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Machine Knitting Retreat

A couple weekends ago, the Knit Natters went on a knitting retreat in the country.

The idea came up when we were contacted by Debbie Awtry, who owns and operates the Mountain Laurel Retreat.  It's a house out in the Texas Hill Country near New Braunfels (between San Antonio and Austin), a beautiful, peaceful location.  We hadn't ever done a retreat before, but we decided to go for it, and not to have any particular curriculum, but just show up, have fun, and do whatever knitting we felt like doing - "free range knitting."

In addition to some of our Central Texas ladies, we had a knitter who came from the Houston area and one from the DFW area.  We'd had nine signed up, but two had to cancel, and we ended up with seven women.

Barbara, Angelika, and I borrowed my hubby's SUV and loaded it to the gills.  We had machines, stands, partially finished projects, yarn, winders, tools, water and groceries, overnight bags, and so forth. Some of the ladies were willing to test mid-gauge patterns that are going in my new book, and I had brought along a pile of printed out drafts.  It was a gorgeous, hot summer Texas day, and Barbara drove while Angelika navigated and I goofed off.  We avoided all city traffic by taking the scenic route west of Austin. 

The Mountain Laurel retreat was a nice surprise, a good-sized, newer 3-bedroom house with current d├ęcor and an enormous work room.  That might have been a three or four car garage, but it's all beautifully finished and set up for quilters.  Debbie has everything immaculately clean, every kind of pot, pan or serving dish we might need, and her own quilts on every bed and on some walls, too.

That workroom is amazing!  The room is very brightly lit, clean and fresh, and she has lots of huge tables, two ironing boards, and several quilters' design boards on the walls.  These are large areas covered with batting where fabric pieces and blocks will stay in place so quilters can step back and look at their arrangements.  The room is stocked with comfortable, rolling purple office chairs. The tables were too thick for our machine clamps, but we were expecting that and had brought along stands or anti-slip shelf paper, which works well for the lightweight portable plastic bed machines. 

Debbie's own beautiful quilts are all over the house.  This lady can match points!  Her workmanship is wonderful.  She has several twin beds in each of the bedrooms, and the great room has a giant kitchen, big dining area and big sitting area.  The house really would work fine for 12 people. 

Marta and Pat were already there, and Marta had brought a swift, her tools (she's our club's very own Ms. Fixit), a yarn winder, and her knitting gear as well as undyed yarn for our upcoming sock blank dyeing project (not at the retreat, at an upcoming regular meeting).  They'd gone to dinner and were working away, knitting.  Ruth came from the Houston area, and Karen came from the Dallas area, and we had our full group.

Carl, Barbara's husband, had picked up the groceries for us.  Carl had hit a warehouse store as well as the local grocery, purchasing so much food we changed our plans and didn't go out to eat at all Saturday, just munched away at the goodies from Carl and other snacks some of the ladies had brought along. 

The retreat is a very different experience from a regular knit club meeting.  First of all, you get such a great opportunity to get to know each other!  I found out things about these ladies that I didn't know after going to knit club with them for years.  I am so impressed with all of them!  Secondly, we were all knitting and collaborating.  A couple of the ladies remarked at how useful that was for learning, because there was a whole group of knitters to give suggestions for the situations that developed.  In addition, knitters are such nice people, and everyone was very kind, helpful and considerate, which made food prep and cleanup a snap.

One of the things that just did my soul good was being away from home and all my normal responsibilities and interruptions.  I couldn't really feel guilty about what I wasn't getting done when it wasn't there to do, could I?  I greatly appreciated the change of scenery.

I had thought a whole weekend of knitting would feel like forever, but the time flew by.  We had all kinds of socializing while we knitted (and before and after, too), so that even the plain parts of the knitting weren't boring.  Angelika and Pat tested several of my patterns and gave me lots of corrections for the new book.  They were tremendously great sports about all the errors and omissions.  Not only that, but after the retreat was over, photos of their finished items are a good part of my book.  I love a photo-filled book!

We had a wonderful discussion Saturday night, and I thought to myself, I LOVE these women.  One thing I don't tend to do is take time for close friendships.  My everyday life is rushed, and this was not rushed.  There is just no substitute for taking enough time, feeling a sense of community.  Debbie has televisions in the retreat house, but we didn't turn them on.

I got a bit of knitting done, myself, samples I needed for the new book. 

Will we do it again?  Probably.  At the very least, we'll have more knit-ins, where we set up machines in the morning at the church and knit all day together. 

Here's our group, from left, Marta, Barbara, Angelika, Ruth, Pat and Karen!  I'm taking the picture :)


  1. Overnight is definitely better! We don't have such a nice venue, but Triangle Machine Knitters does a "Knit-In" twice a year. We started with once a year, and discovered it was just not enough. We love all the things about it that you have mentioned--lots of knitters means someone else has experienced whatever trouble you run into and can walk you through it. You get to know each other so much better in a relaxed setting. We have also discovered that it takes a couple of hours to set everything up. And another couple to take everything down. You need overnight to make the set-up/take-down/drive time/prep time worth it. At one point, someone asked about doing it quarterly. I explained that some of us need to take time off work. If we do it too often, it gets easy to postpone attendance until the next time. And then it doesn't happen. It does need to be special. Diane, if you want to come to Triangle Machine Knitter's next Knit-In, send me an email at We really enjoyed your presentation here at our club. The weekend is Wed Oct 18th at 1pm until Sunday, Oct 22nd at noon. I will be there Wed through Friday, but payment is for the entire event, not a portion of it.

  2. Another thought, Rita - I realized that a retreat is easier to plan than a seminar. This is important for our little club, which has a limited number of volunteers!